Please welcome Rachel Kelly to the blog today. She’s been my daughter’s teacher the past two years, but she’s become my friend. She’s funny and wise, and she is foster mom to three girls and expecting a biological daughter this summer.
What have I learned as a foster mom? That is such a huge question. I know it is totally cliche, but it would be easier to answer “What have I NOT learned?” as the list of what I have learned ranges from how to buy children’s shoes to testifying at court and everything in between.
1. I have NOT learned how people can foster and not build attachments to these children.
That is the number one question I receive when people learn I am a foster mother. (Other than WOW! YOU ARE SO YOUNG. Yes. I’m young. Which means I am completely insane, I am fully aware of my insanity so it’s okay, right?) The number one question being, don’t you get attached to these children?
They’re children! Of course I get attached. I have never had children of my own (until, well, July 2017 … again, yes, I know I am crazy!), but I try to love my three girls like they are every bit my own. I make decisions based on how my mother and my mother-in-law made decisions for my husband and me as children. I care for them in the same way I imagined and hoped I would care for and love my children.
Yes, I am attached and love these
three girls with my whole heart.
I cannot imagine caring for children in my home and not being attached to them. I cannot imagine caring for children for an extended amount of time in any way and not loving them deeply. God knew these girls would be ours and only He knows for how long and that is no different from any other children in this world. We are given children as a gift to nurture and love – it does not matter how they come to us – and we are not promised tomorrow with them. Attachment is necessary and unavoidable.
2. I have NOT learned how this system is built to HELP these children.
I want to preface this with the fact that I have no legal background or much knowledge in the way of legal workings past education laws (and, let’s be honest, those change so often who can keep up?). But I have yet to see, in the past 11 months of having these children in my home, how this system is created to help children.
I am fairly certain it has been created to help adults more than it has been created to help children. These children are stuck with no voice and no understanding of what is happening. One day they get picked up and taken from their home, dropped off at a stranger’s house, and they live with them for an unknown amount of time. And we wonder why these children have such difficulty transitioning into teenagers and adults and, one day, parents.
The word “foster” is defined as “to encourage or promote the development of.” What is this system promoting and developing? Confusion. Have you ever had a 9-year-old child come to you crying and saying they are confused because they miss their mom but they don’t want to go home? It’s gut wrenching, and it is completely unanswerable. It sucks the words and air out of your lungs. All you can do is hold them and tell them that you are just as confused.
3. I have NOT learned how children are so resilient.
I have three girls in my home who are 12, 9, and 7. I have no idea what they have seen past the major reasons as to why they have come to be in foster care, but those major reasons are more than I have experienced in my 26 years. And yet, you wouldn’t know it.
They have their own individual needs that we work on every day and have seen so much improvement in, but they are normal little girls in every way.
Little sister is squishy and sweet. She wants to hold your hand and tell you she loves you and that her favorite color is purple at every chance. Middle sister is lovingly nicknamed “Junie B.” She is quirky and you never know what is going to come out of her mouth. She is the happiest child on Earth and is impossible to discipline because of this. Oldest sister is all about sports and church. She gives great hugs and has never met a stranger. She is every bit of 12 years old and will not wear any clothes I pick out for her because I am not cool. They amaze me and encourage me every day with their strength and resilience.
4. I have NOT learned how anyone can do this without a full reliance on Christ.
I was sitting in church last Sunday and the pastor was talking about God’s love for us, how it is so great that He sent his only son to die for us. He discussed how often we may say we would sacrifice our own lives for others, but how often can we say we would sacrifice our children for others? WOW. That was a huge thought for me.
As a mom, I have so many moments where I have to remind myself of Christ’s sacrificial love for me and how that is the path we, as Christians, are to also take. I am to give my life to Christ in any way he leads. Without a doubt, He led me and my husband to foster care and there are days I want my childless life back. I want to come home from work and lay down with a bag of chips and watch TV and not chauffeur children to dance, soccer, therapy, etc. I want to go off on the weekends with just my husband and have adventures. I want to go to the bathroom without someone calling my name as soon as I sit down. All things I have given up to follow Christ’s path for me.
When I am having these pathetically selfish “mom moments,” I remind myself of Christ’s sacrificial love and it brings me indescribable peace. But when my pastor challenged us to think of God’s amazing love for us that sent His son to die for us, it really hit me. It is so much more than me giving up my petty selfish desires, it is me giving up my idea of the “perfect” family.
I sit here feeling my baby girl (yes, girl #4 … pray for my husband.) move around in my stomach and think about her future. If we adopt these three girls, she will be the youngest daughter of four. She will see the challenges her sisters will go through as they face the full reality of their situation as they grow up. She will know their birth mom as we drop them off for visits. She will have such a different upbringing than I could have ever imagined for her.
If my three girls go back home, she will have sisters for a time in her life she will likely never remember. She will be told she was the first born, but the fourth child in our family. She will see pictures of them and know stories of them. She will see her mom and dad go through great loss. How will these things affect her? I pray she knows what sacrificial love looks like from the start. I pray she has a heart to give her life to help others. I pray that a normal family to her is having brothers and sisters with different moms and dads, but one true Father.
To wrap up, foster care has brought me to the brink of complete insanity. It has forced me to completely rely on Christ and His sovereignty. It has taught me things I could have never imagined I would learn in my lifetime. There are days that I know life would be easier if we had not been called into foster care.
If you feel even an inkling of interest in supporting foster care or becoming a foster parent, I highly recommend contacting Sunrise Children’s Services. They have been a life-saving support and resource to us and our girls.
Rachel Kelly is a farmer’s wife who loves her family, students, food, travels, cats, and Jesus, not necessarily in that order. Read an earlier post about ways you can serve foster families like the Kellys, wherever you are.